In this video from Earth Island Institute's New Leaders Initiative, meet Misra Walker, an 18-year-old who lives in a section of the South ...
This media asset was excerpted from Earth Island Institute's New Leaders Initiative.
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© 2010 Earth Island Institute. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted from Earth Island Institute's New Leaders Initiative.
The Hunts Point section of New York City’s South Bronx has a unique cultural and social identity. It has the highest concentration of Hispanics in all of New York City, and more than half of the population live below the poverty line. Yet it shares something in common with lots of other urban communities: it has very little green space. Green space is defined as open and undeveloped land that supports natural vegetation. Depending on its location, green space may contain grassy fields, woodlands, or aquatic habitats such as streams, swamps, ponds, or lakes. Playgrounds and picnic areas can be easily integrated within these natural settings, making them suitable destinations not only for wildlife but for people as well.
While it is exceedingly difficult to prove that a direct link exists between green spaces and improved public health, a number of formal health studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence suggest that people who have access to green spaces in their communities feel mentally and physically healthier. Spending time in green spaces offers people relief from the stresses and strains of everyday living. In children and teens with attention and behavioral disorders, evidence suggests that engaging with nature can improve these conditions. When green spaces are attractive and accessible, people are more likely to engage in physical activity. This generates some obvious but important health benefits, including improved fitness, weight control, and diabetes management.
Today, more people than ever live in places with fewer green spaces. This is especially true for low-income populations, who tend to inhabit inner cities. As public health groups study the implications of particular living conditions on public health, they are finding some interesting results related to income level. According to a British study published in 2008 in the medical journal The Lancet, the health differences between wealthy and poor residents are much narrower in communities that have more green space. This suggests that one way to help close the health gap that exists in our country between rich and poor is to encourage more development of green spaces.
Inequities in our society often prompt calls to action. But rather than waiting for the federal government to pass new laws, it’s often individuals at the community level who are activists, working together to influence public policy. As Misra Walker’s story demonstrates, even a community’s youth may lead the fight for environmental justice. Youth activism has been aimed at a variety of issues related to environmental and public health, including clean water and clean air, community gardens, and HIV/AIDS and smoking prevention.
- What are some of the health benefits that access to green space might provide a community?
- Describe the problem of access to green space in Hunts Point. What risks would people trying to get to Barretto Point Park face along the way?
- What steps did Misra Walker and her youth activist group take to ensure the community would have better access to the park?
- What are the closest green spaces in your community? Are there barriers to getting there (e.g., distance, traffic, neighborhood safety risks)?
National Health Education Standards
2 (Grades: 9-12 ): Students will Analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on health behaviors.
2 (Grades: 6-8 ): Students will Analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on health behaviors.
8 (Grades: 9-12 ): Students will Demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family and community health.
8 (Grades: 6-8 ): Students will Demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family and community health.